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The Sorceress of Karres: Chapter One

       Last updated: Monday, September 14, 2009 21:35 EDT



    Threbus looked more than a little alarmed at the sudden appearance of the slitty little silver-eyed vatches all around them. “I suppose… these are the kind that can’t be handled by your mother?” he asked of Goth, his middle daughter. The tone was faintly hopeful. The expression was not.

    His daughter shook her head. “I reckon not. Captain, how about you? You’re a real wizard with vatches.”

    Pausert considered the problem. It seemed clear enough that the little fragments of otherwhere, pieces of impossible whirling blackness called vatches, had appeared because of Pausert. Pausert was a vatch-handler, a vatch negotiator, he who had done the impossible, and made friends with the creatures who were normally puppeteers playing with humans for a sort of dreamlike amusement. It would seem that there was such a thing as too much success.

    Eventually, he shook his head. “If I tried and failed — even on one, it’d be pretty fatal. I think we’re going to have to learn to co-operate with them, Threbus.”


    “Rather like one deals with the Leewit,” said Pausert.

    Threbus groaned. “One does not deal with my youngest daughter, Pausert. One merely tries to limit the damage and then distract her.”

    Captain Pausert, who had had plenty of experience of the Leewit, grinned at his great-uncle. “Yes. That’s it, I think.”

    Threbus took a deep breath. “Pausert, you have repaid us for what we did to you.”

    Because of the Karres witches, Captain Pausert had been though more near-death experiences than he cared to think about at any one sitting. He patted his great-uncle — and future father-in-law, if Goth had her way — on the shoulder. “I hope so. It was a bit rough at first. But I wouldn’t have missed it for all the worlds in the Empire.”

    “More to the point the Empire wouldn’t have survived, without you getting through it,” said Threbus.

    Pausert nodded. “I understand that… now. And I wonder if the vatches are not doing the same thing for Karres.”

    Threbus looked thoughtful. “You can hardly have spoken to the precog teams, Pausert. It’s because of what they’re seeing that we’re glad you came back here so quickly. They’ve been giving us worrying and confused views of the future. Not all good, either. I wonder if this is another klatha talent starting to manifest in you?”

    “Nope,” said Pausert. He’d been through enough of the otherworldly klatha development phases to recognize that feeling. “Just common sense. Karres has faced two terrible dangers. Been all that stood between man and Manaret, and between the Empire and the nanite plague.”

    “Could be,” said Goth slowly, “that Karres, just by existing, draws trouble.”

    Captain Pausert felt an eerie prickle at the back of his skull. Some kind of klatha force was at work here.

    It was plain that Threbus felt it too. “We can’t exactly stop existing. We’ve always operated, if not in secret , at least not obtrusively. We could hide back in time or something…”

    Goth shook her head, her high forehead wrinkled in concentration. “It wouldn’t make any difference. Whatever causes this is like Big Windy the vatch. I reckon it’s not limited to space or time as we know them. Not even this dimension. Manaret and Moander were pulled from somewhere else. Another dimension, thousands of complicated dimensions away… they thought it was by accident. But what if it wasn’t?”

    “I’d say we’re in trouble. Again,” said Captain Pausert, shrugging. “We’re getting quite good at that.”

    “Clumping right,” said the Leewit, arriving suddenly in their midst. “What are all these stinkin’ little vatches doing here? Where is Little-bit? She’s okay. I didn’t invite all these other ones.”

    “Perhaps she’s here, somewhere. It’s a bit confusing,” said Pausert.

    “Well, go away, you lot,” said the Leewit to the vatch-swarm. “Or I’ll whistle at you. I don’t know if it’ll bust you up. You want to find out, huh? Anyway, Pa, I came to tell you Maleen is here at the palace.”

    Threbus brightened perceptibly. He was a fair man, Pausert knew. He never played favorites among his daughters. But he plainly had a soft spot for Maleen, his oldest child. “If they won’t go away,” he said, looking at the vatches, “I suppose that we could.”

    The Leewit looked warily at her father. “Not the Egger route…”



    There was a boom as air rushed in to fill the space. The vatches flickered and rippled around where the four Karres witches had been moments before. They’d find them again of course. They had their flavor.

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